The Firstborn - Lions Among MenThe Firstborn come straight outta Portugal with a slick sound and high concept – Mahayana Buddhism – on “Lions Among Men”. I know this because I reached deep down inside and powered through their 621-word promo write-up. Sympathy beers may be sent to me care of ThisIsNotAScene.

Nothing in the music or vocals themselves expresses the serenity often associated with Buddhism, or the grandeur of the mythos of the religions of Indian-subcontinental origin. Which is a shame – it’s a good concept, rich source material, but “Lions Among Men” is an opaque experience.

It took me longer than usual to review this album – I wanted to give it a fair shake because, as weird as this sounds: on the surface, it seems deep. But after listening through a few times there is little I can say about it other than that it sounds like a slow, boring version of Melechesh.

What this means is that we have middle-eastern melodies and syncopated percussion parts spun into hypnotic rhythmic vamps. This can be very cool, and there are many bands out there doing it very well in a metal context. Unfortunately, The Firstborn recorded everything on “Lions Among Men” at more or less the same soporific mid-tempo; this is true within each song as well as across the album. I kept feeling like I was hearing a cool intro that was waiting to explode into a release of energy that never took place.

On the plus side, vocalist Bruno Fernandes has a solid death growl, and multi-instrumentalist Luís Simões’s sitar is a welcome exotic touch (he is also credited with synth, percussion and sampling). The engineering and mixing are also professional and powerful.

Lions Among Men” may well appeal to metal fans who love the mixture of death and groove metal with world music elements. I can imagine fans of Soulfly and the aforementioned Melechesh digging this. However, we need to hear more variety in the arrangements and passion in the effect of the music to rate this above mediocre.

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